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Wolfson Economics Prize submission proposes ‘Road Miles’ system to fund infrastructure

A £5bn cycling infrastructure fund has been proposed by the president of the AA, Edmund King, and his wife Deirdre, who is a former economist at the British Road Federation. The plan lies within one of five submissions shortlisted for the 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize which is seeking to popularise the concept of "road pricing".

BikeBiz reports that The Wolfson Economics Prize – the second largest in the world after Nobel – will be awarded on Thursday with a prize of £250,000.

Sponsored by Lord Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next plc, and run in partnership with the Policy Exchange think tank, the prize has previously run in 2012 and 2014.

In 2012 it invited proposals on how the Eurozone could be safely dismantled, while the 2014 prize asked the question “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”

The question asked this time around was: "How can we pay for better, safer, more reliable roads in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment?”

Speaking about their submission, Edmund King said: “I think the biggest problem with the road network is congestion, environmental issues, and also the way we pay for it. We need a new, radical system to pay for roads, but also to improve our roads.”

The proposal is built around the concept of Road Miles. “We set up a system where every driver in the UK gets at least 3,000 road miles free – so it’s free access to the road network – but then after that, there is then a small charge.”

Extra income would be generated from a Road Miles Lottery, where prizes would be luxury cars and additional Road Miles; from firms bidding on the naming rights of major roads; and from auctioning off Road Miles for firms to give away in promotions.

They say that financial modelling projects total revenues above current Government revenue by an average of 3.4 per cent per annum over a decade.

The submission also expresses explicit support for cycling campaigners’ call for investment in cycling of at least £10 per person annually, eventually rising to £20.

"Road Miles will provide £4.9 billion over ten years to match this proposal, increasing the amount to £20 after Year 5,” it states.

"Having sat on the Government’s high-level cycling group and after consultation with Chris Boardman and Martin Key from British Cycling, we feel the best way to really kick-start cycling is a ‘contribution fund’.

"This is the approach the Dutch took in the 1970s to accelerate the construction of cycle tracks. The Fund would be made available to local government for the construction of cycling tracks. The fund would contribute up to 70 percent of the costs of construction of cycling tracks in towns, cities and A-roads and up to 50 percent of the construction costs on B-roads.

"The fund is required to enable local government to kick-start the development of cycling infrastructure and cycling networks that give people a real choice of travelling by bicycle."

They add: “Priority will be given to those projects that can demonstrate the greatest propensity for an increase in cycling numbers and a modal shift away from private car use. There is recent evidence that well-designed cycle ways with pots of flowers dividing the lanes from the road can increase house prices by 50% compared to adjacent streets in parts of London.”

The policy document also expresses support for a government cycling target of 10 per cent of trips within 12 years as well as Carlton Reid’s campaign to revive around 300 miles of 1930s-era British cycleways.

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